PARIS, Sept 27, (Agencies): France carried out its first air strikes against the Islamic State group in Syria on Sunday, as Russia said it was seeking a “coordinated framework” to fight the jihadists. President Francois Hollande said six French warplanes were involved in the operation to strike an IS training camp near the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, and that more air strikes could follow in the coming weeks. The action came on the eve of the UN General Assembly in New York where Syria is back in the spotlight after four years of a brutal war that has sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe.
President Vladimir Putin is set to unveil a plan to resolve the conflict on Monday after boosting Russia’s military presence in Syria and taking a leading role in pushing for a political solution. “We have proposed to cooperate with the countries in the region. We are trying to establish some kind of coordinated framework,” Putin said in an interview with CBS television. “We would welcome a common platform for collective action against the terrorists,” he said.
Iraq said it had agreed with Russia, Iran and Syria to set up a unit in Baghdad to share intelligence on IS. The new sense of urgency to end the war that has left 250,000 people dead comes after a year of air strikes by a US-led coalition which have failed to have a significant impact, and with Washington’s efforts to resolve the crisis in disarray.
France has been part of the US-led coalition bombarding IS targets in Iraq since September 2014, and has carried out 215 out of nearly 4,500 strikes there, according to French and US figures. But until now it limited its air strikes on the extremist group to Iraqi territory.
In an announcement earlier this month, Paris cited self-defence as its rationale for expanding its policy to Syria. Hollande has been under political pressure to take action against IS after a series of jihadist attacks in France, and fears over hundreds of citizens who have gone to wage jihad who could return home battle-hardened and vengeful. When world leaders convene for the UN General Assembly this week, it will be a year since the US president declared the formation of an international coalition to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State group. Despite billions of dollars spent and thousands of airstrikes, the campaign appears to have made little impact.
The extremist group may control slightly less territory than a year ago, but it continues to launch attacks and maintains key strongholds in Syria and Iraq. The militants’ reach has expanded to other countries, including Libya, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Afghanistan. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview released Sunday that he was seeking partners to set up a “coordinated framework” to fight the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. “We have proposed to cooperate with the countries in the region. We are trying to establish some kind of coordinated framework,” Putin said in the interview with CBS television. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday it was vital to coordinate all efforts against the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East but this was not yet happening.
Asked the purpose of an Iraqiannounced effort to coordinate intelligence among Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters before he met Kerry it was to “coordinate the efforts against ISIL (Islamic State).”